Farmer Focus: Have flea beetle lessons been learned?

Oilseed rape never ceases to amaze me. The flea beetle attacks early in the autumn are now firmly confined to memory; the crop has enjoyed the recent mild and relatively dry conditions, the hybrid DK Exclaim in particular is really flourishing.

But lots of different challenges are on the horizon: when do we put the brakes on? How many fungicides will we need?

And, just as important, have we learned any lessons that would help with another flea beetle epidemic? Do we need higher seed rates, or companion crops?

See also: Advice on protecting OSR against flea beetle attacks

It seems the hot, dry summer didn’t affect everybody’s yields, as we found out in Harrogate at the Adas YEN conference.

I am full of admiration for the crop husbandry skills of Lincolnshire’s Tim Lamyman, who, once again, cleaned up.

Our Dekalb-sponsored OSR entry was apparently short of boron and manganese.

Although the comprehensive report states our entry only reached 47% of the 11.4 t/ha crop potential, I wonder if a more reasonable target might be the gold award’s incredible 6.4t/ha, rather than the theoretical and unattainable?

Adas’ Farmers Innovation Group is gathering momentum and is revealing some inventive ideas.

For example, cross drilling of OSR has shown a real increase in biomass from the open spacing of the plants, which has allowed them to grow without restriction.

Level playing field

Genome editing has been described as a real game changer in the development of new crop varieties.

Now a World Trade Organization agreement has been signed by 13 countries to support policies that enable agricultural innovation, including genome editing.

Even though no foreign DNA is added in the editing, European policymakers have deemed genome editing should not be exempt from the burdensome GMO directive.

According to senior scientist Penny Hundleby from the John Innes Centre, this decision shocked the scientific community and has serious implications for innovation, competitiveness and trade.

As I’ve said before, how on earth do the politicians expect us to feed a growing population with both hands tied behind our backs?